CHARLOTTE, N.C. — According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of college is nearly $36,000 per year for students, which includes daily living expenses, books and supplies.

The organization also reports the average cost of college has more-than doubled in the 21st century. 

What You Need To Know

  •  The average cost of college has more than doubled over the years, according to data from the Education Data Initiative
  •  Some students are choosing to not go the traditional route to avoid student loan debt 
  •  A Charlotte native is saving her money while pursuing her dentistry dreams, so she can save up for a four-year college

Some students are exploring ways to achieve their career goals without immediately enrolling in a four-year college. 

Charlotte native Kamille Bell is pursuing a career in dentistry. She's currently working as a receptionist at Strive Dental Studio. 

She says not going the traditional route right now is making her American dream a bit more affordable. 

"The price is very important when deciding where you want to go, education-wise," Bell said. 

Bell says she always dreamed of working in dentistry and hopes to one day become a dentist. 

"I've always wanted to help people," Bell said. "Everyone wants that perfect smile."

But she says the cost of completing a four-year degree and dentistry school is a bit concerning. 

"You hear [some] people saying they walk out and they're in half a million dollars of debt," Bell said 

Although some of her peers chose to enroll in an undergraduate program right out of high school, Bell says it wasn't the most cost-effective pathway for her. 

"There was no point in me going to a four-year university and wasting extra money that I didn't need to," Bell said 

Bell instead explored ways to enter the dentistry field without racking up thousands in debt. For her, that meant not yet going the bachelor's route.

After graduating from high school, Bell's plans were to get the education she needs at a community college or training school so she can work and save up money for dentistry school. 

But the career journey hasn't been easy. Bell applied for a dentistry program at a community college in Charlotte.

"Unfortunately, I did not get in," Bell said. 

After working on meeting pre-requisite requirements, Bell enrolled in a 12-week dental assisting program at the D.A. Academy of North Carolina. She graduated in July. 

Bell says she's now on the right track toward achieving her dentistry dreams. 

"I assist and work up front [at Strive Dental Studio]," Bell said. 

Bell says this path has helped her to avoid racking up student loans at a four-year college and not take on debt. Instead, Bell says she's saving money to pay for any additional schooling.

​"I definitely saved thousands of dollars," Bell said. 

Although Bell will have to go the four-year route if she wants to become a dentist, she says working in the field now is making it more affordable for her to attend.